Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Movies: Away We Go

Ugh. Call me shallow, but I have no interest in watching two rabidly ugly, functionally-impaired people who are madly in love with each other despite each person's lack of attractive qualities muddle through a cross-national house-hunting extravaganza while they nervously await the impending birth of their accidental, out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Like many of Dave Eggers' other creations, this screenplay appears to be disturbingly based on events of Eggers' own life. This is an aspect of his oeuvre that has never bothered me; in fact, I've adored it. Away We Go's pregnant heroine Verona can only be named after Eggers' wife and co-screenwriter Vendela Vida, except that Vendela is beautiful and Verona is a monstrosity. Similarly, Burt is a sham stand-in for Dave, but where Eggers is attractive enough, intelligent, and accomplished, Burt is an ill-groomed, malapropism-spewing loser who sells insurance futures. Don't get me wrong—the couple is well-intentioned, but watching well-intentioned idiots in the real world always makes me flinch. Why pay $12 for the experience when I have it for free every time I go to Brooklyn?

The film's only olive branch is offered by director Sam Mendes, who asserts his preference for the aesthetically pleasing in the film's only bearable scene, which happens to feature the sometimes aesthetically pleasing Maggie Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal playes Burt's cousin LN (say "Ellen"), and when the homely Burt and Verona walk into her university campus office, she is bare breasted, long-haired, and bathed in Mendes' signature buttery light (Mendes: the Vermeer of filmmakers). She is radiant, suckling a radiant baby at one breast and a pink-cheeked boy of three or four at the other. The hippy-feminist-Madonna extravaganza continues when Burt and Verona go to her home for dinner, meet her long-haired and Indian-garbed husband, see the family's communal bed (the couple does not hide their love-making from their children), and attempt to dine with them. From a writerly perspective, it is pretty flat-footed satire, snarky and perhaps even a bit jealous, but Mendes films the scene so beautifully that we can ignore the immature Burt and Verona when they snap, shout, and flee (even though this is a moment when we in the audience are supposed to cheer them on). Personally, I'd much rather be an LN than a Verona.*

*IF I had to be a child-bearing woman, that is. And why is it that in each city, each couple the the couple encounters has children? Even in the idealized Montreal, where the couple has five adopted children, each from a different country, the wife is consumed by grief because her womb refuses to be fruitful and give her a child of her own. Ugh. That Verona should really have had an abortion. How can people so dysfunctional that they don't even know where they want to live, and need to go visit five random cities to choose a home, properly raise a child? Ugh.


Anonymous said...


I'm sorry for disappearing so suddenly from your life so many years ago. I don't even know if you remember me. We got cheap pizza, and vietnamese food, and I hated buses so I'd always take the subway way down to midtown just to get to your place from mine on the Upper West Side. We watched Casablanca once. And I could have been nicer, so I'm sorry.


Dahl said...

Of COURSE I remember you. You were actually very nice, for a while--probably too nice. I remember your lofted bed and your big round eyes. How did you find me here of all places?

Anonymous said...

I was just thinking about you the other day, and fired up the ol' google. I met you at a really, really weird time in my life, and I wish I had done things differently, and I just wanted to say hi. I have fond memories of you, and I hope you're doing well.